Increasing The Efficiency of Your Not-for-profit

This blog post is a bit different than my typical SaaS, Leadership, and technology topics. I’ll continue writing on those topics but I have a heart for non-profits and the work they do. If you’re working with a non-profit and I’d be honored to hear your story and what they’re all about.

Recently I assisted a smaller non-profit (over half a million in annual contributions) improve their backend systems around accounting, payroll, HR, and expense reporting. I see smooth sailing ahead. Mind you, if your non-profit is very large, some of these processes may not scale properly. In that case, a different configuration and methodology is required.

Warning: what your about to read could increase your technology expense by a thousand bucks a year — but it’ll save you headaches, confusion, and lots of time. Not to mention allow you to focus on your core mission, instead of general and administrative aspects of your non-profit!

The Outcomes

This has been ROI positive. Here are a few improvements I’ve seen:

  • We’ve needed less volunteer time
  • Employees have been significantly more efficient (and therefore can focus on their core goals)
  • Fewer issues and fires to put out
  • More timely, accurate reports

Note: to accomplish this you still need to have an incredible team. The team will make or break what you can achieve, just like any other company.

The Situation

The organization was using QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks payroll, Bill.com, Church Community Builder (a CRM, of sorts), Bluepay, and lots of paper. Some of the goals were:

  • Convert as many operations to the cloud (ability for mobility)
  • Digitize documentation
  • Systems and documentation access control
  • Integrate systems for streamlined and automated processes

Here were some of the pain points we sought to address, per category:

Payroll

  • Quarterly reconciliations. They were manually filing these each quarter.
  • State and federal quarterly payments. They were making mailing in payments each quarter.

HR

  • Tracking and reporting part-time employee hours. Requests, approvals, and wages were all tracked over email.
  • Tracking and reporting time-off requests. Same as above.
  • Employee onboarding. Very time intensive.

Expense Reimbursement

  • Improving the reimbursement experience for employees. There were lots of receipts, lost receipts, and many hours reviewing each one. And no one liked the process.
  • Approving reimbursement requests. Again, time intensive.
  • Employee direct deposit. This wasn’t a major issue, but if you were on direct deposit you couldn’t easily look up past earnings.

Contributions

  • Running the deposit to the bank. This takes lots of time with multiple trips, counting, recounting, etc.
  • Integrating donor system and accounting system. Imagine a CRM not talking to a billing system. To be honest, this is still a problem even with the current tech stack.

Cash Disbursements (paying vendors)

  • Storing vendor documentation. Lots of invoices, lots of paper, paper approvals, etc.
  • Approving expenses
  • Timely payment to vendors

Looking at that list now, it certainly feels like a lot. But it was actually rather simple by integrating systems. The only thing we couldn’t solve was integrating the donor and accounting systems.

Changes

The new software stack included:

  • QuickBooks Online — It’s important to know we linked our bank account with QuickBooks online for downloading transactions and reconciliations
  • Gusto (for payroll)
  • Bill.com (we retained this)
  • Expensify (expense reimbursement)
  • Church Community Builder (donor management)
  • Bluepay (credit card and EFT donation processing)

Payroll and HR

All of these systems integrate with each other. That means increased efficiencies and less manual work for you (or your accounting/HR team!). For instance, Gusto can manage time tracking, time-off requests, automatic tax payments, and semi-automated employee onboarding. Gusto + QuickBooks Online means all of that flows to QuickBooks so you don’t need to make separate entries.

Expense Reimbursement

Expensify is one of my favorites. It has saved me HOURS and money — if I didn’t have the ability to take a picture of expenses, I’m sure I would have forgotten to get reimbursed for company expenses. My wife would not have been happy. Here are a few examples:

  • Take a picture with the app
  • Alternatively, forward expenses to receipts@expensify.com from your email address and those, too, will be added to your report
  • Quickly scan through your reimbursement list to add any comments
  • Approval is easy as you can quickly review documentation, review expenses with missing documentation, and submit for approval
  • Once approved, you can use direct deposit to automatically reimburse the employee

Expensify also integrates with QuickBooks Online. This means any expenses are recorded. More than that, the expense accounts can be synced to Expensify so when employees select an account (for example, 5725 — Mileage) that expense will be properly recorded in QuickBooks Online under that account.

Contributions

If you don’t have a remote deposit scanner, now’s the time. Depending on your bank and technology systems, there are fees. However, I’d argue the time 1–2 employees take to get a batch ready, put it in a bag, and drive it to the bank and back is likely more expensive than the cost of a scanner + fee per check (often between $0.09 and $0.20 per check). That, and you remain in the safety of your office to decrease the possibility of interception (robbery) and retain copies of the checks for your donor system.

Note: there is currently no integration between QuickBooks Online and Church Community Builder. When that day comes, I’ll celebrate. 🎉

Cash Disbursement

Bill.com also integrates with QuickBooks Online — so scan/take a picture of that expense, add it to invoices to be paid, notify the signer, they can review/approve it, and you can click “send” for Bill.com to pay the vendor and push the entry to QuickBooks.

If you’re approving bills and either travel a lot or are not in on site all that much, this makes a WORLD of a difference. I’ve approved bills from airports, hotels, in various time zones, and my own couch. This is a major benefit.

A few notes…

So before you go out and replicate this exact technology stack, keep in mind there are other vendors, too. So here are some other options:

Accounting Software

  • QuickBooks Online
  • Xero (a phenomenal product with a terrific user interface—I love their offering and think they’ll likely take over)
  • Aplos (smaller company focused on providing accounting systems for churches. They integrate with Church Community Builder, but lack other integrations)
  • FreshBooks

Expense Reporting

  • Expensify (this is super intuitive, easy to use, and honestly terrific)
  • Concur (it’s been a few years, but their user interface was less-than-stellar. They may have improved slightly, but I haven’t heard)
  • Paper (seriously, just don’t do this)

Payroll

  • Gusto
  • QuickBooks Payroll
  • Paychex
  • Paycom
  • ADP
  • Many, many others

Vendor payment

  • Bill.com
  • QuickBooks Bill Pay
  • Invoice2go

Conclusion

It’s been a great and fun ride. If you are working at a non-profit (or even a for-profit!) and have a sense that things could be better, explore some of the options above. Additionally, if you’ve rarely thought of improving your systems, now’s the time. You can save hours and hours of work, lots of frustration, and even money. By improving the backend systems, this is enabling our non-profit to further it’s mission by freeing up resources, delivering better reporting, and simplifying processes so mental energy can be focused on what the organization really wants to (and needs to) focus on.

Disclaimer: we were not paid to say any of this. We’re not collecting fees, revenues, kickbacks, brownie points, or even free software for any of these recommendations. This is 100% intended to assist non-profits so they flourish.

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